The town hosted one of three joint budget hearings last week, marking the first time one was held there. The school, located on Broadway, was host to the State Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and the Assembly Budget Committee.
"These hearings give individuals and organizations the opportunity to react to the recommended budget," said Wayne Bryant, Democratic co-chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
Governor James McGreevey introduced his $23 billion state budget on March 26. The two committees hold one public hearing each in northern, southern, and central New Jersey.
According to Bryant, the two committees have until June 30 to amend the budget and present it to the governor. The people testifying before the committees are basing their testimony on the recommended numbers given in the governor's budget.
Among those testifying at the hearing were the North Hudson Community Action Corporation, Hoboken Mayor David Roberts, Christ Hospital's licensed clinical social workers, and other non-profit organizations such as the American Cancer Society and the New Jersey Historical Society.
Making a difference
Each group or private citizen testifying before the committee had to submit a written statement as well, which the committee members and their staff members reviewed to make recommendations for possible changes.
"These have, on occasion, resulted in a change of position and modifying the budget," said Senate Majority Leader Bernie Kenny of Hoboken, who is also a member of the Senate committee.
However, keeping in mind the difficult financial year the state is having, Kenny said the majority of the people lobbying at these hearings are not asking for more money.
"We are not seeing additional monies being addressed as in the past," said Kenny. "Many organizations are asking that they be included in the budget this year with last year's number."
Organizations such as the Passaic County Elks Cerebral Palsy Center wanted to show that the money they received was well spent and much needed.
Michael Leggiero, president and CEO of North Hudson Community Action Corporation based in West New York, asked the board to consider the state's 13 federally qualified health centers. These centers provide health care to those who are underinsured and uninsured, as well as Medicaid recipients. Leggiero expects a significant increase in the population of patients seeking health care and asked for a strengthened reimbursement policy from the state.
"It is essential that the reimbursement structure for serving the uninsured and the services covered be strengthened to meet patient need both for current users and, more particularly, to make servicing the anticipated expended population possible," said Leggiero, adding that 48 percent of the population seeking health care in these centers is uninsured.
However, Roberts did not ask for money, but spoke to the committee about the education plan in Hoboken, which includes the construction of a sixth to twelfth grade technology magnet school.
"[Roberts] did not ask for money but advocated for a plan," said Kenny. "It was good that he did that."
While most people testified about how the money in the state budget is being spent, the New Jersey Citizen Action group talked about the money going into the budget. The group lobbied for a fair tax rate for New Jersey families that is competitive with the corporate tax rate.
According to the group's spokesperson, 20 years ago, corporate taxes paid for 15 percent of the budget revenue. In this budget, corporate taxes only account for 5 percent.